Rare Cockatiel Color Mutations


by Linda S. Rubin Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

(All Rights Reserved)

At many of the cockatiel shows staged around the country, fanciers are seeing a growing number of "new" and unusual color combinations benched under the rare varieties in the cockatiel division. In addition to the standard mutations normally benched, one may now see a growing number of fancy rares which undoubtedly have caught the eye of many color breeders. Arriving during the mid- to late 1980s, these colors are becoming more and more popular, and should increase in popularity, and hopefully on the showbench, during the decade of the '90s.

The challenge of working with the rare varieties is to breed for superior color and markings, while maintaining the size, proportions and shape of the Standard Exhibition Bird. This may take several generations and years of breeding to perfect, but the satisfaction in producing a top color line and the production of quality stock is worth the time and commitment invested. Color breeding a rare variety can be a loftier challenge than working with the established lines of standard mutations. And when working for the showbench, much patience is required.

The following is a cross-section of some of the rarer color varieties bred and exhibited today:


The Whiteface, or Charcoal cockatiel as it is sometimes referred to in Europe, was first imported into the U.S. during the early 1980s by American aviculturist Dale Thompson. The rules governing its color production are exceptional and its appearance enabled the production of the Albino, a man-made cross mutation (described further along), as well as other exciting combinations.

The Whiteface mutation lacks all lipochrome (yellow and orange) pigmentation and, for this reason, is dramatically different from any other cockatiel mutation every produced. In other words, neither yellow nor orange coloration can be produced in the Whiteface mutation. Therefore, neither sex carries the usual orange ear covert feathers, more commonly referred to as the "cheek patch'.' The Whiteface, then, is the only single mutation in cockatiels which lacks the orange cheek patch in both the male and the female.

The Whiteface contrasts with the Normal Grey by producing a much deeper, richer "charcoal" coloration in the melanin pigment. As it differs from all other mutations in that it voids the variety of all lipochrome (yellow and orange) pigment, the orange ear coverts or cheek patches are always absent. Mature males develop a white facial mask in contrast to the typical yellow mask carried by other varieties. Hens, however, retain their charcoal face color with corresponding light areas, as in the normal varieties, perhaps around the forehead, crown, lores or beneath the lower mandible. Their· areas, instead of being yellow, however, are white. The white wing-bar is retained, the eyes are pigmented dark and the feet and beak acquire additional color pigment as the birds mature.





Rubin, Linda S. The Complete Guide to Cockatiel Color Mutations. Chapter 9, Whiteface and Albino. Chapter 10, Silvers and Fallows. Newton, MA. ©1988.